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A milestone in Hindu marriage reform in India

  • Published
    29th Sep, 2023


The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 in India has not recognized Self-respect marriage, in Tamil Nadu, which in present times has had to cross hurdles such as judicial and executive interpretations.

Historical Brief

  • Self-respect Marriages: A self-respect marriage in Tamil Nadu, also known as "Suyamariyathai thirumanam" in Tamil, is a type of marriage ceremony that deviates from traditional Hindu marriage rituals.
  • The social reform movement: It is associated with the Self-Respect Movement, a socio-political and cultural movement in Tamil Nadu that emerged in the early 20th century.
  • Raised voice: The movement was primarily championed by social reformer E.V. Ramasamy, commonly known as Periyar.

Non-Ritual Hindu Marriages in Tamil Nadu

  • Early Resistance to Non-Ritual Marriages: In the 1950s, Madras High Court invalidated non-ritual Hindu marriages, labeling them illegitimate for not following traditional rituals. This challenged Dravidian ideals of companionate marriages, women's rights, and inter-caste unions.
  • Demand for Legal Recognition: Dravidian leaders sought recognition of non-religious marriages under Hindu law during the drafting of the Hindu Code Bill. However, the Act recognized only a few reformed marriages, leaving self-respect marriages in Tamil Nadu unsupported.
  • Legalization of Self-Respect Marriages: The struggle culminated in the Hindu Marriage (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act 1967, which validated non-ritual Hindu marriages, challenging Brahminical interpretations.

Contemporary Challenges

  • Union Government's Stance: In 2017, the Union Ministry for Social Justice refused recognition of Section 7 of the Act, undermining inter-caste marriages.
  • Supreme Court Intervention: Recently, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of Suyamariyathai marriage in Tamil Nadu, emphasizing its consensual nature.
  • Madras High Court's Progressive Approach: Despite challenges, the Madras High Court has played a significant role in advocating gender rights in marriage, transcending other Indian courts. This indicates the positive impact of legal reforms for women in Tamil Nadu.
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